Charlie Rangel retains Ways and Means gavel
JONATHAN ALLEN | 10/7/09 2:45 PM EDT
Democrats easily rebuffed another Republican attempt to remove Rep. Charles Rangel from his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday. But there was a small sign of eroding support for the embattled New York Democrat: Mississippi’s two House Democrats voted against him.
Reps. Gene Taylor and Travis Childers joined nearly all of the Republicans on a vote that effectively killed a resolution by Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) calling for Rangel’s removal while the ethics committee undertakes a sprawling investigation into his finances.
The anti-Rangel votes from two southern Democrats may be seen as minor evidence of mounting pressure on Rangel, whose job remains secure so long as he has the backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the large majority of the Democratic Caucus.
“These votes show that support for the Democratic Leaders’ decision to sweep this matter under the rug is starting to crack,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Six Republicans sided with Rangel on Wednesday: Reps. Peter King of New York, Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, Dana Rohrabacher of California, Walter Jones of North Carolina, Don Young of Alaska and Ron Paul of Texas.
A similar effort by Carter in February garnered no Democratic support.
Democrats’ parliamentary maneuvering ensured there would be no debate on the resolution, but Republicans clearly believe that forcing Democrats to defend Rangel with a roll call vote is good politics.
“We cannot tolerate a double standard in this country, one for the common man and another for the rich and powerful,” Carter said Wednesday. “To allow Mr. Rangel to continue to serve as chairman of the very committee with IRS oversight, without paying a nickel in penalties, and with no end in sight to his ethics investigation, sends a clear message to the American public that this government refuses to abide by the same laws they impose on the working people of this country. With this vote, those people can see exactly where their representative stands on the issue of equality under the law.”
Rangel balked at an effort to have the House supersede the ethics process.
"It's unfair," Rangel said Wednesday morning. "I think the ethics committee should get a chance to work its will."
Congressional ethics investigations are notoriously opaque and can often take months to complete, which is why Republicans are frustrated with the Rangel situation. But the chairman continues to have the full backing of Democratic leaders.
“We will await that [ethics] report,” Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland said Wednesday. “Prior to that, any actions making reference to Chairman Rangel would be premature.”
The committee has its hands full, as new revelations about Rangel’s complicated finances seem to pop up every few months.
Most recently, Rangel restated his legally required personal financial disclosure, showing an asset range that jumped from roughly $500,000 to $1.3 million to $1 million to $2.5 million.
That was the latest in a string of incidents that have shined the spotlight on the Rangel’s personal and political conduct. He has admitted to failing to report income from a Dominican vacation home, and he has been accused of breaking New York City rules by maintaining multiple rent-controlled apartments, including a campaign office.
He also has come under fire for allegations that he used official letterhead to solicit private funding for a City College of New York Center created by an earmark and named for him and that he helped retain a tax break for a donor to the center. The New York Post reported Wednesday morning that Rangel secured a $3 million earmark in the House’s Defense Appropriations bill for another arm of CCNY.
Rangel, known for camera-ready bonhomie, may be less visible to television audiences these days. But he has been meeting regularly with Democratic leaders and various party factions to help fashion a health care overhaul. After a recent meeting of the Democratic whip team, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said Rangel “is here to know what the members are thinking.”
Regardless of what they’re thinking, their votes say it’s not time for Rangel to step aside.
Rangel’s office believes the ethics push is also a Republican effort to derail health care.
“Let’s look at this resolution for what it really is – a highly partisan effort designed to undermine the important work in Congress on health care reform,” a Rangel spokesman said after the vote.
Technically, the House voted on Wednesday to refer Carter’s resolution to the ethics committee, which already is investigating Rangel and would essentially take the referral under advisement. The final tally was 246 to 153, with 19 lawmakers voting present. That vote came on the heels of another procedural vote on which Rangel prevailed 243 to 156, with 19 present votes.
On the first vote, Childers sided with Rangel. His spokeswoman did not immediately return POLITICO’s request for comment.
Asked before the vote whether Rangel would see an erosion of support, Taylor said “I guess we’ll know in a few hours, won’t we?”
Carter made a bit of a spectacle on the floor, taking about 18 minutes to read a resolution with a seemingly limitless supply of “whereas” clauses. When Democrats objected to forcing the clerk to re-read the entire thing, Republicans refused to consent to dispensing with the reading. In all, the affair took about an hour.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Unrepentant (and inexplicable) -- Charlie Rangel's new best friend, RON PAUL ?!?